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April 4, 2008
By Zanny Marsh
Former president of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, described the dynamism of change and characteristics of leadership during his presentation “The Challenge of Change: Lessons from South Africa,” April 2, in Nightingale Hall. His visit was part of the annual Forum for Excellence sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts to support its Fund for Excellence.
“This was an uncommon opportunity to hear from a man whose extraordinary life helped shape contemporary political history,” said Heather Hardy, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Mr. de Klerk’s experience, as he guided his country through the end of racial segregation, holds important lessons for each of us.”
De Klerk encouraged University students to prepare for economic globalization by embracing cultural and technological changes.
“We live in environments that we create – our homes, our offices, our cities. Success belongs to those who are acutely aware of their environments” he said. “Like our ancestors, our success will be determined by our ability to manage and benefit from change.”
De Klerk seemed particularly optimistic about the future of University students who possess the ability to adapt to rapid academic, technological and cultural change.
“Change is unpredictable. It is fundamental,” he said. “Change in a quest to achieve vision and new circumstances – that is the change that we want to make. It is quite easy to see what needs to be done. The art is being able to do it successfully.”
De Klerk was elected to the key post of leader of his country’s National Party on March 6, 1982. A caucus of the National Party chose him to be its leader in 1989, during which he initiated and presided over the inclusive negotiations that led to the dismantling of apartheid and the adoption of South Africa’s first fully democratic constitution in December 1993.
De Klerk served as state president until President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration on May 10, 1994.
He has received numerous national and international honors, awards and honorary doctorates including the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded Dec. 10, 1993, which he shared with Mandela.
In 1999, de Klerk established the F. W. de Klerk Foundation, which is dedicated to the promotion of peace in multi-communal societies. He formed the Global Leadership Foundation in March 2004, designed to play a constructive role in the promotion of peace, democracy and development.
The College of Liberal Arts created this lecture series in 2000 to invite speakers of national reputation to engage audiences in discussions that focus on critical thinking.
Previous guests have included Robert Kennedy, Jr., George Mitchell, Michael Beschloss, Garrison Keillor and Frank DeFord.